Government is committed to address the food and nutrition security situation in the country and is advocating for the growth of pulse crops for better nutrition, a senior government official has said.
This was revealed by the permanent secretary in the ministry of Agriculture Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Mr. Ringson Chitsiko during a breakfast briefing and nomination ceremony of Special Ambassador for the International Year of Pulse (IYP), Mrs Elizabeth Mpofu.
He said the Food and Agriculture Organization’s mandate of fighting hunger and proving better nutrition is in line with government’s ZIMASSET.
“According to the FAO, 2016 is the International Year of Pulses and it fits in perfectly well with government’s commitment to addressing the food and nutrition security situation in the country.
“This is well-articulated in our ZIMASSET blueprint especially the attainment of results under the Food and Nutrition cluster,” said Chitsiko.
He added that Zimbabwe, just like any other Southern Africa country is reeling from the effects of the ElNino induced droughts as well as erratic spatial and temporal rainfall patterns.
Chitsiko urged farmers to adopt pulses as a way of fighting hunger in the country. He said pulses do not get affected by erratic rainfall shortages. He also emphasized on the importance of pulses on the dietary system.
“The country is currently facing the effects of the El-Nino as the 2015/16 agricultural season was the driest in more than 35 years. High climate variability has become one of the biggest constraints in achieving food and nutrition security.
“Enriching an agro-ecosystem with pulses brings numerous advantages for farmers and local communities. Pulses reduce the risk of crop failure in multiple cropping systems thus improving food security. They are a key component of a healthy diet and a very source of vegetable proteins,” he said.
Government is supporting the promotion of pulses such as groundnuts and cowpeas as they not only provide a healthy diet but they promote and increase biodiversity and can easily be stored when dried compared to vegetable and fruits
In her acceptance speech, the new International Year of Pulses 2016 Special Ambassador said it has always been her desire to contribute to the betterment of the small farmers, most of whom are the poor.
She urged farmers to start growing crops, especially pulses, according to the rainfall patterns that their different region experience.
“Pulses such as cow-peas and beans have always been part of our traditional crops, enriching our diets and also the soils. They are easily grown intercropped. Moreover, African rural communities have found numerous ways to fully utilize the benefits of growing these legumes besides consuming the dry grains.
“For example they cook and dry the leaves and have vegetables all year round. Rural communities also select and save seeds for replanting. We need to highlight these benefits of pulses,” she said
Phiri added that poor people cannot afford nutritious food for themselves and their families and cannot afford to buy seeds hence pulses can improve the quality of such people’s diets and their overall health, while enriching the soils.
She bemoaned the lack of recognition of female farmers saying ’’the majority of small farmers in Africa and elsewhere are women, yet their contributions are not fully recognised and underrepresented.
“Women’s immense contribution to farming and food production is not captured in official statistics and are also discriminated against when it comes to access to and control over the land in most African countries,” noted Phiri and added that to have an effective awareness about the important contribution of pulses to food security and nutrition, there is need address these deficiencies through policy reforms,” she said .
Pulses are a type of leguminous crop that are harvested solely for the dry season. Dried beans, lentils and peas are most commonly known and consumed types of pulses.